It is rare to find an album that is so wonderfully self-descriptive, to the point where it is a struggle to produce an adjective that might better suit this album than the one it wears as its title. Powerful, yet soft and subtle, Tender is delicately crafted to bypass the listeners’ head and go straight to the heart.
Tender is the long-awaited fourth studio album from vocal harmony trio Lady Maisery, who, despite their six-year hiatus from music publication, continue to sit comfortably at forefront of the British folk music scene. This break does not seem to have affected the unique style that had been established in their previous work, and fans of the past albums will certainly enjoy this.
That being said, the album does not feel stuck or samey at all, and is very much a step up for the group. Before listening to this album, it is worth noting the incredible talent of the band, who aside from outstanding vocalists, are all multi-instrumentalists and perform every element (apart from an organ on Tender and Bird I Do Not Know) that can be heard. Hannah James plays the accordion, sansula and percussion; Hazel Askew plays the melodeon, harmonium, harp and banjo; Rowan Rheingans plays the viola, banjo and electric guitar.
This instrumentation may appear unusual to feature on an album which delves into the topics and issues that are covered in the songwriting; such as racial inequality, violence against women, as well as loss and ageing. Yet, the sounds blend seamlessly with the storytelling and imagery, and work together to put forward these messages in a way that is simultaneously powerful and palatable.
Creation of music in this way reaches its ultimate form on the final song on the album, Birdsong. This is a song that feels, at face value, to be a more traditional folk song about nature. Upon closer inspection, the whole song turns into a spectacular metaphor that can be interpreted in several ways.
It is part women’s rights anthem, part climate change plea, part homage to the practice and necessity of creative work. To simply say that this album is layered does not do it justice. Every last element in its construction feels purposeful, with every lyrical metaphor, vocal harmony and banjo chord placed perfectly to build an extraordinarily complex and faultless work of art. Six years well spent.Harvey Coates
Released on CD and digitally November 11 2022. Produced by Adam Pietrykowski and Lady Maisery.
2. Bird I Do Not Know
4. 3000 Miles
7. Rest Now
8. The Fall
9. Child Among The Weeds
10. Noughts & Crosses